I was reading the Teacher Toolkit the other day, which is a fantastic site. I took at least 5 new ideas from it, mostly relating to classroom management. It reminded me how rewarding it is to learn from others, and also to share ideas. As a ‘Thank you!’ to that site, I’m posting five of my favourite ideas from my ‘ELT Toolkit’. Most are age-old, tried and tested, and a lot are described on other sites and in books.
Elicit a dialogue on the board related to a certain topic. A classic one is ordering fast food (as a lot of my students will end up in McDonald’s at some point).
Staff: Hi, can I take your order?
Customer: I’d like a Big Mac meal please
Staff: Which size?
Customer: Extra Large
Staff: is that with coke?
I normally organise the students into two lines, both of which can still see the dialogue on the board. They practise with the person opposite, then everyone moves down one space so they get to practise with different people. Once the students are confident with the dialogue, start deleting bits of it:
Staff: Hi, ___________ your order?
Customer: __________ a Big Mac meal ________
Staff: _______ size?
Do this at whatever pace you like, until you end up with no words at all. It fun for students to try and remember the dialogue, providing it is a suitably challenging one. Plus, there’s a lot of task repetition.
Tekhnologic might suggest using some cover/reveal animations on Powerpoint for a pre-made dialogue.
Derek Spafford also explains Vanishing Dialogues here.
Put a picture up on the board or outside the classroom on the wall. Put students in pairs. Student A can’t see the picture. Student B must describe the picture to Student A, who then draws it! After a set time, you can reveal the original picture to the ‘artists’, who usually end up in fits of laughter.
You can add a bit more humour to proceedings by giving a mark out of 5 for the accuracy of each picture.
Don’t forget with this activity that students may require some process language. This may be important vocabulary, or things like ‘in the top left there is… in the middle there is…’ etc.
Incidentally, the example picture is from a textbook called ‘Interactive 3’. Picture dictation is another way to introduce a topic or make the text book come alive a bit.
Something happened to me…
A TEFL classic this one – something from my training that I still use. It provides a subtle practice of question forms.
Explain that something happened to you but don’t give much information. I normally set the scene by saying I was in the staff room, and draw this on the board:
The students work in pairs. They must find out as much information as possible about what happened. They need to know every little detail – the time, why I was there, etc. They have 12 minutes to ask questions, but I can only answer YES or NO. As it is a competition, they shouldn’t say the questions aloud as other groups will hear, so they write questions down then show me. I say YES or NO, and then they write the next question, etc.
I draw extra clues at regular intervals to guide them a bit:
When the time is up they look at all their information and briefly summarise what they think happened. The closest team are the winners. Then tell them to look at the paper in front of them to see just how much practice they’ve done on question forms. Do some error correction, possibly as a grammar auction.
It’s on the tip of my tongue…
This activity helps students with defining words.
Start by saying that you’ve forgotten some words – explain an object and get students to guess what you mean…
Teacher: Oh, what’s that thing called? You know, you use it to brush your teeth…
Ask each student to write down 10 random objects (in secret) to explain to their partner. Give Student A. one minute to explain their words – how many can their partner guess in that time? Students then swap roles.
After this, provide some model sentence starters, some of which the students may have already used:
The thing that… the place where…
The person who… the thing you use to…
The antonym of.. a synonym of…
It’s a kind of… it’s a type of…
Get students to write 10 more clues for different things, people, places, etc, using the above sentence starters. They play a similar game in groups – the first student to guess the correct word from the definition gets a point.
The best thing about this activity as a 20 minute filler = no prep.
A great activity from Oxford International, for upper-intermediate/advanced (maybe teenage) learners who like to think that things are too easy…
Use your standard jeopardy board. Before you start the game, get students to brainstorm words that are prefixed with…
Inter- over- under- pre- re- sub- trans-
Looking at the words they’ve got, can they think what each prefix actually means?
Make these your topics for each jeopardy category – they will never say that a game is easy again!
Here are example questions:
Make your own example for suffixes too.